FORT WAYNE – It’s tough to know what the bigger problem with the Komets is these days: their woeful power play or their inability to stay out of the penalty box.
Even though his team has been scoreless on its last 20 opportunities with the man-advantage, coach Al Sims clearly believes it’s been the Komets’ penchant for being penalized that has led to the current three-game losing streak.
We deserve what we’re getting, said Sims, whose Komets (7-5-1) have been outscored 13-3 in the slide.
Along the way, the Komets have given up seven power-play goals and three short-handed goals. That was magnified in Saturday’s 5-0 loss at Memorial Coliseum, during which the Evansville IceMen scored all of their goals on special teams.
Five on five, we were 0-0, Sims said.
This season, the Komets have averaged 24.23 penalty minutes per game, which was fourth most in the 23-team ECHL heading into Sunday.
Opposing teams have averaged only 17.46 penalty minutes per game.
By now, Sims believes, the players should know that their lack of discipline is leading to losses.
They should know, Sims said. Every time you are sitting in the penalty box and a goal goes in, then you’re skating to the bench. You should know that you just cost the team. If it’s a good penalty, that’s fine, like bringing a guy down on a breakaway or something. But we’re taking slashing penalties in the neutral zone and penalties in the offensive zone. We’re taking penalties in places where there’s no danger. We’re just taking penalties for the sake of taking penalties.
The Komets’ penalty-killing unit ranked 11th with an efficiency of 83.6 percent this season, while the power play ranked 17th at 15.2 percent.
But the time spent in the penalty box is taking its toll; on Saturday, Evansville (5-9-1) played two men short of a full 18-player lineup, one fewer player than Fort Wayne had at its disposal.
The Komets are without Chris Auger, Eric Giosa, Matt Kennedy, Ryan Hegarty and Marco Cousineau, and have seen Nick Schaus recalled to Norfolk of the American Hockey League.
But that doesn’t explain the recent play.
We can’t continue to have this parade to the penalty box, Sims said. This is totally undisciplined. We can’t continue to play with eight, nine, 10 power plays against every night and expect to win hockey games. It kills your best players because they’re going out all the time to kill penalties. Halfway through the game, they’re dying (of fatigue).